Retroactive Redemption


nick_icon.gif samuel_icon.gif

Scene Title Retroactive Redemption
Synopsis Samuel offers Nick an opportunity to make up for past wrongs — the best way he knows how.
Date October 29, 2010

A Wharf

The sun is high in the sky as Nick gets off his shift as a longshoreman down at the Brooklyn docks. Work as an undercover agent, in his case, means burning the candle at both ends — early morning shifts doing menial but honest labor to make pals with the dockwrkers, many of whom are also making money on the side by smuggling, and then of course the smuggling operation where he helps run gun for Walsh in the evenings on Staten Island. The dual work is wearying, especially for someone recovering from a near fatal injury.

Nick grabs a water bottle from a cooler and signs out with his supervisor before beginning the walk along the industrial docks, through a veritable maze of crates and crates of shipments, ships and boats towering above on one side.

Autumn's bite is in the air, especially so close to the water, the chill damp and palpable, though the day is clear with the sun bright but distant in the sky. Nick takes a swig of water while his free hand rubs his right shoulder — the combination of the cold air and the hard work is aggravating the still healing bones and muscles in the joint. Meanwhile one leg drags in a bit of a limp, thanks to a slightly torn ligament from his bar fight the week before. But pain is nothing new to Nick Ruskin — if anything, he welcomes it. The Vicodin bottle that rattles in his pocket is still full, carried for no reason other than to remind himself he doesn't deserve its soothing properties.

There is someone ahead of him, someone who saw the path Nick might take, today, and decided to be ahead of the game. Samuel is not where he is supposed to be, perched on the lip of a shipping container, a strange sight in his suede, water-damaged jacket, corduroy trousers, wingtip shoes of worn brown, and a home-rolled cigarette between his fingers. Gloves with the fingers scissored off them, and black marker darkening bitten fingernails.

He is waiting.

But now he isn't, when he sees Nick's broad shouldered figure come cruising this way. Assesses limp and whatever less tangible details are available to Samuel. By the time Nick is nearing, he has a smile ready. "Mornin', Ruskin," is his greeting.

Nick's step falters as he sees the man perched on the container — but whatever, he's off the clock and it's not his business. That is, until that name is uttered so glibly from a stranger. The younger man comes to a stop, head canting curiously as his mind races to sort through possibilities of who this man is and how he knows Nick's real identity. He certainly doesn't look Interpol, but then, neither does Nick, particularly. That's why he's right for the job, or so his recruiter claimed back in Liverpool.

"Think you've got the wrong man," Nick mutters in his vague American accent, beginning to move forward again, which will have to bring him closer to Samuel before allowing him to pass him. A moment later, he rescinds that bluff, and he pushes sunglasses off his face to peer at Samuel with hard blue eyes. "Who're you with? Swords? The Priest? I thought we worked everything out."

That gets a grin, and Samuel relaxes from where he'd been about to pursue, crossing his ankles instead and tapping ash towards the ground some distance downwards. "I'm with myself, friend," he says, in that accent of vaguely mixed heritage — ultimately Irish in its roots, but well traveled. "And I've got no interest in your business either. People like me, we don't need weapons." Untrue, actually. He has at least a knife, a silver, meanly thin sneaky blade that rests up his sleeve.

Invisible, right now. Maybe irrelevant. He levers himself off the edge of the container, landing on both feet and absorbing the shock of it up his legs. Not painlessly, but there is good humour in the wince that follows the ache in his ankles, knees, hips. Straightens, taking back the cigarette he'd pinched between his teeth.

"But I figured you'd have interest in mine. My name's Samuel Sullivan."

Those weary blue eyes narrow as Samuel mentions his business — clearly knowing that he's in the smuggling business, or seemingly so, and yet also knowing his real identity. Curiouser and curiouser. Nick, though not well educated and never the kid with the best grades in school, has always been a curious sort, and it's hard for him to walk away from such an intriguing mystery.

That and his life is on the line — the more people know who he really is, the more dangerous it is for him to be in New York.

"Yeah?" Nick asks, reaching into his own pocket for his Capstans, shaking one out and bringing it to his lips, following with a lighter. "What's your business?" is added a moment later, after inhaling the first drag of smoke and adrenaline from the cigarette.

"Fixing the past." Well, that sounds like a pretty niche market. Samuel's posture is that of a wary animal, like perhaps Nick might be expected to react — sometimes people do. Mostly, it's cynicism. Only occasionally, is it physical. "Everyone's lives are dictated by the decisions they make, Nick. You could map out a man's history, and the turning points are the ones where somethin' happens to him, or he makes somethin' happen."

He jolts a shrug. "Rarely, it'll be when he fails to make somethin' happen. That sound at all familiar to you?" He must know that he sounds like a crazy person — but in Samuel's experience, it's good to get the crazy out of the way first, rather than reveal the unpleasant surprise after deals have been made.

The decisions and actions of Nick's life that have led him to where he is are etched in his psyche like scars. His jaw clenches, bone and muscle twitching as his eyes narrow. "Fuck off," he growls, throwing the cigarette that's barely begun to burn onto the ground at Samuel's feet with a flick of his hand. "I don't know who you are or why you think you know who I am, but you know shit."

Nick's mind isn't on what he didn't do — he is much too wrapped up in the wrongs he's done to consider what he failed to do. If he thought about it longer, perhaps, but right now, Samuel's just pissing him off. "Who told you where to find me?" he adds, angry suddenly at the only people who could have sent Sullivan his way — Eileen? Raith? Avi? "Benjamin?" Even Abby or Melissa? Logan? He doesn't wait for the answer but turns to begin walking again.

"A good friend of mine," Samuel says, calmly, simply, towards Nick's back. He runs his tongue along his front of his teeth, before he's following, pitching his own cigarette aside as he goes. "I'm givin' you the opportunity of a life time, Nick. Imagine what it would be, if you could go back and change something important. The lives you might spare of pain and heartache — and not just your own." All men have regrets, but there is something specific in the needling quality of Samuel's smoke rough voice.

A hand goes out, goes to grip Nick's shoulder, to stop him.

Go back and change. The words make it through Nick's defiant front, and he stops, turning to look at Samuel with eyes that are both weary and old in spirit and somehow youthful and vulnerable at once. "Go back?" he echoes, his voice rough. "You mean — I could go back and make sure things were different?" The wheels begin to turn — what that could mean for him, what it could mean for Eileen. Something unseen alights in his eyes that hasn't been there in years.


"You can do that?" Nick says, then shakes his head. "Why would you do that for me? Or … are you a friend of hers?"

That last question goes unanswered — just a quirk of a smile when he sees something behind Nick's eyes fold, Samuel lifting his chin as he steps back, gives the younger man room. "I've been blessed with a powerful talent for hoppin' back and forward in time, and I'm in the business of givin' people the chance to make amends for past mistakes in a way that actually works," is smooth delivery, hands resettling into pockets as Samuel throws his glance out towards the glum New York rivershore.

Turns his face up to enjoy the cold air. "The only thing I require is a little bit of loyalty. I'm trying to set the world to rights. To fix things. I need sets've hands to do it. But we don't have to discuss that now — just consider the offer of a chance at changing the things you know must be changed.

"Would you like time to think?"

This is something Nick doesn't have to consider — not for very long, anyway. He never expected forgiveness nor redemption, but a chance to change the events of his lifetime before he needed either is a boon that is even more unexpected, even more incredible, than those two unfathomable things.

He gives a shake of his head. "No. I want in." His words are terse but eager, clipped but certain. "What do I need to do?"

The heroes have it harder. Convincing someone to save the world is a greater task than offering something so purely selfish as course correcting the route of your own life. Samuel smiles in a way that is both sharkish and kindly, and extends a hand, then. The lines in his palm are tracked deep with earthy grit, and rough with manual labour on his palms and fingers. There is a future, where someone plays hero to a little girl, takes her out of the hands of the Vanguard, and deprives them of their bird eyes.

And everything that comes after. The silent implication, in the upturned palm of Samuel's paw, is that all Nick needs to do is take his hand.

In those who have lacked for something in their life, there is the desire to find that something where it may not exist. The sharkish quality ignored, Nick takes the smile for kindly — for caring, for wanting to honestly correct something so wrong as the dark spots of Nick's past. He steps forward to take that hand in his own, palm calloused, knuckles scabbed over. Nick's blue eyes search Samuel's darker gaze as he signs this deal with what he sees as an angel — though others might call Sullivan a devil.

Air rushes into the space that was once occupied by two men of very different makes, without anyone to witness or startle at the sight of such a seamless disappearance. They go somewhere not unlike New York City in climate and temperament, trading in one chilly, damp city for another.

But Nick can tell the difference, when he takes a first breath in. There's home to be tasted in the air.

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